The Mystique of Business Travel or The Thrill is Gone!

Business_Trip_ToiletI can still recall my first flight on an airplane. Until I was 12 years old every long trips meant long hours in the back seat of the car, much of the time protesting my lot in life and saying how car sick I was. No sympathy from anyone, with an older sister and an older brother to contend with, yelling ‘dibs!’ on the front seat yielded little. Robin, my older sister, was too sweet to get ugly with and my older brother, Dan, would merely shove me out of the way enroute to his rightful position in the pecking order. I was stuck in the back seat with Melanie, my younger sister. It should come as no surprise how exciting the thought of jet airplane travel was to me.

On the final day of August 1970 my mother woke everyone up, fed us our usual ‘family breakfast’ of pancakes and milk, and made sure we were dressed in our Sunday best to go to the airport. In those days, it was only respectful to dress nicely for the honor of being on these big birds. I hated wearing my Sunday dress shoes, nothing good ever came of the exercise. We grew too fast to wear them enough for proper break in, thus, the shoes were always treacherously slippery. I could have easily mimicked James Brown or Michael Jackson style dancing.

We arrived in Seattle from a six hour flight on a wide body jet with all the energy kids have after being given illegal amounts of sugary, caffeinated soda, likely Coke, but I don’t recall the brand anymore. Grandma Jo was perhaps the only person in the world that would be capable of handling us, and in the precision of an army drill sergeant, she barked out orders that kept me in line during the 90 minute drive back to Eatonville, some 50 miles away.

Most kids at the new school had never flown, so besides being ‘new kid’ from the city I was also thought to be from a wealthy family having arrived in high style. I must say, I enjoyed holding court to regale my classmates on the rigors of jet travel. Good thing I milked that for all it was worth, I didn’t darken an airplane again until I was married many years later.

As an adult I discovered why my folks chose long car rides to short flights, gas was a mere 20 cents per gallon and passenger travel by air was still the stuff of special situations. Not even family deaths could justify the cost of flying when two long days in the car would get me my family to the same place at a fraction of the cost.

My second airline event was business travel. At last, travel the way it should always be, at the expense of a large multinational corporation, and free to me! On this occasion I acted like a seasoned veteran, careful to hide my rookie experience in airports. I traveled between Phoenix and Chicago on another jumbo jet. I was to be gone for six weeks and my company would fly me home every two weeks to see my family. By the end of the training I could yawn with the most well traveled aristocrats while waiting in line to board.

Since that time I’ve logged enough miles to earn free flights on many airlines. Airline travel is now cheaper than the drives I used to make between Phoenix and Seattle.

These days I travel on company business to the south. I’d never been to the rural parts of the deep south, my only southern exposure was a trip in 1997 to Orlando with my daughter to fulfill a promise to see Disney World.

I’ve managed brief stays in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, and have passed through Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma. In total I’ve been to seven mills in company towns, all dusty, noisy, and with little storied southern charm. The excitement of travel has been replaced by the uncertainty of finding a well kept bathroom or clean mugs for fresh coffee, or even a local cafe with chairs that are not of the folding type. My travel partner, old salt that he is, has been wise enough to motel in nice places up to 30 miles from the mills. I’m thankful to be far from the dust of freshly cut timber, and the need to wear ear plugs just to walk from one ‘office’ to another. The other day I reveled at eating hot wings in a Texas Hooters!

The redemption of this itinerant lifestyle is in the people I meet, I have yet to happen upon one of foul disposition. All are gracious and personable, living up to the folklore of southern sensibilities, and as I’ve determined all are eminently thankful the mills remain open. I hear talk of little league games and plans of college for their kids, of travel to near by cities like New Orleans, Memphis, and Dallas.

While the thrill is gone for this type of business travel, it all serves to remind me that I have more than I ever imagined in life and certainly more than my neighbors just a few states away.

I think I’ll grab the Comet and 409 and make sure my bathroom sparkles, all while smelling the fresh coffee down the hall.

Thanks for reading this far.

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9 comments for “The Mystique of Business Travel or The Thrill is Gone!

  1. MARILYN L
    September 27, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Hey, Tim -sorry to respond so late to this blog, but i just wanted you to know that I can really relate to the getting dressed up part. My dad was a pilot for United so we were required to dress up – dresses or pant-suits in order to fly via the "free passes." (we were represnting the company, I guess) I still get kind of dressed up! Old habits die hard! Thanks for writing an interesting blog.

  2. Donna
    September 11, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    We used to fly back to Delaware for a month in the summer to visit my grandparents, this too was in the early 70's and we dressed up for it. I thought I was a hot shot having been aboard a 747, but now I am probabally one of the least travelled people I know, last time I was on a plane was 1991, but it's not by choice, just financial circumstances.

  3. Brad Beerdrinker
    September 10, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Yeah, business travel has lost it's appeal for me too. I'd rather vacation. Stay in touch and I'll have some logos to show eventually. Thanks!

  4. ****
    September 7, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    What great memories of travel with your family! Because my father worked for Eastern Airlines–we travelled "standby" all the time. And yes–we were always dressed in our Sunday best–my mom would actually make matching outfits special for the trip. People stopped us in the airport all the time to comment how cute we looked (which I hated with a passion). Since my dad knew all of the stewardesses and staff–we always got special attention–and just like you–people assumed we were of wealth when we barely had 2 sticks to rub together! I grew to really abhore travelling when I was doing it so much for work. It got to the point that the airport smells made my stomach hurt. I do miss seeing the different places and meering great folks from all over.

  5. Tim H
    September 6, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Sunny – the pic is from an actual mill in the south. I meant to get more examples but one is plenty.

    Monica – Hey, I used to be a very good dancer. For all I know Micheal saw me in the airport that day and he got the ideas from ME.

    Rose – I was on my way to a part time contract when news of 9/11 broke. I still have the radio I went out and purchased just to listen to all the radio information for the next couple of weeks.

    Sandy – Ewwwwwww…a 'squat' toilet! Double ewww… water for toilet paper. Of course water would be better than the toilet paper story you mentioned in your blogs some time ago, right?

  6. Sandy B
    September 6, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Since I was issued my first passport at the age of one, I've been flying since God was in short pants… and I still pray when the plane goes up and when it lands. Sometimes, I think, that's the only reason I'm still here, considering the state of the plane. As for toilets, well, one hasn't lived until using an Indonesian squat toilet with a bucket of water substituting for the toilet paper.

  7. Rose J.
    September 5, 2007 at 1:19 am

    I was the car sick kid in the backseat too. And it didn't help that my dad drove the speed limit, which back then was like 80 mph. I dreaded those long car trips. When I worked for AT&T, I traveled quite a bit too for conferences. I was en route to Orlando on 9/11/01. We were in the air when the attacks in NYC happened. We got grounded in Charlotte, NC and I will never forget the chaos and fear of that day. It took me about 2 years before I felt comfortable flying again. I am grateful for what I have, but everytime I get on a plane, I do say a prayer for safe travel. 9/11 made me realize it could all be over tomorrow, and by God's grace I am here, and I can take care of my children, and life is precious.

  8. Monica
    September 4, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Now seeing YOU do the Michael Jackson or James Brown would definitely be a HOOT!!! LOL

    You are right though…be grateful for what WE have!! Geez now I feel the need to get in there and clean my bathroom…lol

  9. Sunny Bee
    September 4, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    That public restroom pic….it's scary!!!!!! LOL ……"SPARKLE" away!

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